Do you have trouble bringing a good joke or humorous idea to the page? Well, just because you’re a funny person doesn’t always mean that you’re a funny writer. A lot can be lost in translation if you don’t know how to build the story beyond the punchline.
If you’re looking to improve your ability to write comedy, The Peterborough Academy of Performing Arts is bringing writer, comedian, and playwright Deborah Kimmett to Peterborough to present her one day “Making the Dog Laugh” workshop on Saturday, January 23rd.
“Someone can be funny,” Deb says. “They can go to a party and kill them with their stories. But when that same person goes to write them down, they can get frustrated because they can’t figure out how to capture the same energy. This workshop is to show you some techniques to get that idea on a page and get it structured so it can work.”
Working for nearly 40 years in comedy, Deb was an instructor at Second City in Toronto for 15 years and has been teaching writing workshops for nine years. She’s written numerous plays, three books, and is regularly featured on the CBC radio show The Debaters.
It was when she was hired to write a regular column for Canadian Living Magazine that Deb began to realize that there is a difference between being funny on stage and being funny on the page.
“I performed my own material for years with stand up and improv and then I did some one-woman shows,” she says. “But then I got hired to write a magazine column and I found I had to work harder on the page to get the humour to really resonate with the reader.”
“People think humour is something that you can throw on a page,” Deb continues. “But if it’s going to have more than one line, it has to have a truth to it. Whatever you write, you have to build on it. You can’t just randomly put things down; it has to make sense. There are lot more rules to make it work. It’s like mathematics. You can’t fool around with it.”
“You need to learn the rules of comedy, and then you can break them.”
Where Do Comics Find the Funny?
Whether it’s for fiction, a memoir, or blogging, Deb takes writers into a safe and entertaining space and gives them the tools to be able to build a comedic piece.
“The first part of the workshop is about working past your inner critic,” Deb says. “Comedy is about playing and figuring it out. You’re going to make mistakes with it, but when you’re playing you can learn how to build the skill as a comedic writer.”
“What I want to explore in the workshop is where you find the humour in a situation,” she adds. “We explore how to build a comedic moment out of that situation. Comedy is all about adding more to the situation. It’s about ‘what if?’ — it’s all about escalation.”
Deb explains that the problem isn’t always with writers coming up with a funny idea, as much as it is the way the idea is executed on the page.
“The idea is usually good but people don’t build it the right way,” she says. “What I find is that often the writers just haven’t put enough of the elements in, so we can see what’s in their head. I show them how to build that idea.”
Deb also explains there are other rules to comedy that can play into a successful piece.
“You can’t have ridiculous things happen to ridiculous people,” she points out. “You can have ridiculous things happen to ordinary people, or have ordinary things happen to ridiculous people. The Queen getting stuck in a farmhouse has a lot more potential for humour, because she shouldn’t be in a farmhouse.”
“So many of us work on the punchline, but the comedy is in the journey to the punchline. Comedy is all about interrupting what the audience is thinking. If the audience knows the punchline is coming, you’ve got to get there fast or you have to make it different than what the audience expects.”
Peterborough audiences love comedy and we have a vibrant community of funny performers. Working with Deb Kimmett is a unique opportunity to learn from one of the best and to improve your skills to a new level of success.
“All good comedy comes out of great storytelling,” Deb explains. “This workshop is for someone who has a great sense of humour but hasn’t been able to tap it for the page.”
“Making the Dog Laugh” is hosted by The Performing Academy of Performing Arts at The Theatre on King (Suite #120, 159 King St. Peterborough) on Saturday, January 23rd from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The cost of the workshop is $99. To register — and to find out more about Deborah Kimmett — visit www.kimmett.ca.